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Will MacAskill's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Will MacAskill recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Will MacAskill's favorite book recommendations of all time.

Find a fulfilling career that tackles the world's most pressing problems, using this guide based on five years of research alongside academics at Oxford.
You have about 80,000 hours in your career: 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for 40 years. This means your choice of career is one of the most important decisions you'll ever make.
Make the right choices, and you can help solve some of the world's most pressing problems, as well as have a more rewarding, interesting life.
For such an important decision, however, there's surprisingly little good advice out there....
Recommended by Will MacAskill, and 1 others.

Will MacAskillThe organisation 80,000 Hours is named after the number of hours we spend working in our life. That’s a lot of hours. Spending 1% of this, which is 800 hours, on figuring out what to do with the remaining 99%, makes a lot of sense. (Source)

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Reasons and Persons

Challenging, with several powerful arguments, some of our deepest beliefs about rationality, morality, and personal identity, Derek Parfit claims that we have a false view about our own nature. It is often rational to act against our own best interests, he argues, and most of us have moral views that are self-defeating. We often act wrongly, although we know there will be no one with serious grounds for complaint, and when we consider future generations it is very hard to avoid conclusions that most of us will find very disturbing.
Recommended by Will MacAskill, David Edmonds, and 2 others.

Will MacAskillI would say that Derek Parfit was the most brilliant philosopher of the 20th century. His book Reasons and Persons, especially, has over 10,000 citations. (Source)

David EdmondsReasons and Persons was written in 1984, and Derek Parfit was one of my postgraduate supervisors. One of the blurbs on the back of book says “Reasons and Persons is a work of genius”, and I think it is. It’s an incredibly important book, and one written in a tradition completely different to Bernard Williams, even though the two were friends. Bernard Williams is an essayist and he looks at the... (Source)

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An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World

From one of the leading thinkers on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, a pioneering set of simple practices to dissolve anxiety, stress, exhaustion, and unhappiness.In "Mindfulness," Oxford professor Mark Williams and award-winning journalist Dr. Danny Penman reveal the secrets to living a happier and less anxious, stressful and exhausting life. Based on the techniques of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, the unique program developed by Williams and his colleagues, the book offers simple and straightforward forms of mindfulness meditation that can be done by anyone--and it can take just... more
Recommended by Tessa Watt, Will MacAskill, and 2 others.

Tessa WattThis is the book that I would recommend as the most practical…It takes you through an eight-week course and it has audio to go with it. (Source)

Will MacAskillThis book is a friendly and accessible introduction to mindfulness meditation, and includes an 8-week guided meditation course. Will completed this course, and it had a significant impact on his life. (Source)

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"An engaging, highly readable survey of the sophisticated methods of persuasion we encounter in various situations. From television to telemarketing and from self-deception to suicide cults, Levine takes a hard look at all the ways we attempt to persuade each other--and how and why they work (or don't). . . . The next time you wonder what possessed you to pay $50 for a medallion commemorating the series finale of Friends, you'll know where to turn."

"If you're like most people, you think advertising and marketing work--just not on you. Robert Levine's The...
Recommended by Will MacAskill, and 1 others.

Will MacAskillThe ability to be convincing, sell ideas, and persuade other people is a meta-skill that transfers to many areas of your life. This book didn't become that popular, but it's the best book on persuasion that Will has found. It's much more in-depth than other options in the genre. (Source)

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CHINA AND THE UNITED STATES ARE HEADING TOWARD A WAR NEITHER WANTS. The reason is Thucydides’s Trap, a deadly pattern of structural stress that results when a rising power challenges a ruling one. This phenomenon is as old as history itself. About the Peloponnesian War that devastated ancient Greece, the historian Thucydides explained: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” Over the past 500 years, these conditions have occurred sixteen times. War broke out in twelve of them. Today, as an unstoppable China approaches an... more

Fareed ZakariaA very smart and important book. (Source)

Kin KariisaIt was such a memorable and humbling moment meeting Prof. Allison Graham, professor of government at Harvard, on the sidelines of Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity here in Jeju Island, South Korea. His book Destined for War is a fascinating read. (Source)

Will MacAskillThe last 70 years are a fairly unusual state. We don’t really know why they’ve been so unusually peaceful. This could all change in the 21st century. (Source)

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Superintelligence asks the questions: what happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence? Will artificial agents save or destroy us? Nick Bostrom lays the foundation for understanding the future of humanity and intelligent life.

The human brain has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that our species owes its dominant position. If machine brains surpassed human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become extremely powerful--possibly beyond our control. As the fate of the...

Elon MuskWorth reading Superintelligence by Bostrom. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes. (Source)

Maria RamosRamos will take the summer to examine some of the questions weighing more heavily on humankind as we contemplate our collective future: what happens when we can write our own genetic codes, and what happens when we create technology that is meaningfully more intelligent than us. The Gene: An Intimate History—Siddhartha Mukherjee Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies—Nick Bostrom The... (Source)

Will MacAskillI picked this book because the possibility of us developing human-level artificial intelligence, and from there superintelligence—an artificial agent that is considerably more intelligent than we are—is at least a contender for the most important issue in the next two centuries. Bostrom’s book has been very influential in effective altruism, lots of people work on artificial intelligence in order... (Source)

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Practical Ethics

For thirty years, Peter Singer's Practical Ethics has been the classic introduction to applied ethics. For this third edition, the author has revised and updated all the chapters, and added a new chapter addressing climate change, one of the most important ethical challenges of our generation. Some of the questions discussed in this book concern our daily lives. Is it ethical to buy luxuries when others do not have enough to eat? Should we buy meat from intensively reared animals? Am I doing something wrong if my carbon footprint is above the global average? Other questions confront us as... more

Daniël Lakens@CJFerguson1111 I think you'd like Singer's Practical Ethics - if nothing else it is a great book to disagree with. It nicely goes through all these arguments. Maybe other people can recommend alternative viewpoints to read - but I found this book enlightening. (Source)

Will MacAskillWhen I read it, I had already decided to study philosophy as an undergraduate, but when I read I just was so compelled by the thought that philosophical reasoning is of huge importance and can really change the world. (Source)

David EdmondsPractical Ethics came out in 1979, just before I began studying philosophy. I loved its rigour, and I found Peter Singer almost impossible to argue with. I agreed with almost every position he took on every issue. There were chapters on abortion, on animal rights, on how much money we can give to the poor. It’s really the blueprint for everything he’s written subsequently. He is prolific, but if... (Source)

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